Flu season... it's gettin' ugly

shotIf you've been noticing fewer people at work or at the gym, it's not your imagination. We're getting nailed with a particularly bad flu season this winter. (If you want to see how scary it is, go here and see how the map changes in the past two months.) It's gotten so bad that Boston has declared a public health emergency. There are several theories as to why the spread of the virus is so severe. Many are not getting vaccinated, either due to unfounded fears that it's toxic or simply due to complacency from a mild flu season last year. Furthermore, each season's vaccine only immunizes against a handful of strains, and it appears the strains that were chosen are not matching up well with the strains currently infecting people in huge numbers.

So you can eat healthy, get exercise, and get plenty of rest, but if a booger-covered child sneezes on your subway car, you're getting sick. The single best thing you can do to protect yourself is to get vaccinated, even if the vaccine isn't perfect. Remember, it isn't a decision that only affects you. It's a decision that affects your community, especially in a city as tightly packed as New York.

The evils of... sitting

You workout on a regular basis, you watch what you eat, you don't smoke, you don't drink excessively.... You know what, you are so good to your body that you should kick back and relax a little bit. Why not have a seat? A-HA! You fell for it. (I knew you treated your body like garbage.) Sitting is horrible for you! Get your ass off that couch. You're killing yourself... literally!

A recent Australian study found that "those who reported sitting for at least 11 hours a day had a 40% higher risk of dying within the next three years than people who sat for less than four hours a day."

And no, exercise does not absolve you. Regardless of how active you are during your non-sitting hours, sitting too much is still horrible for your health.

The upside of all this is that the next time someone steals a seat from you on the subway, you'll know they're going to an early grave.

Paula Deen's down-home... and diabetic

For years, Paula Deen has been using her southern charm to convince us that proper nutrition has no place in the kitchen. Although she preaches moderation, there's nothing about her butter-, flour-, and sugar-laden cooking that backs this message up. Now it appears that biology has caught up with Paula. She has come out of the closet as someone with Type 2 diabetes. Perhaps she's had one too many burgers with Krispy Kreme doughnuts as buns.

Should we be happy that the queen of unhealthy cooking has finally gotten what was coming to her? Of course not. Should we be furious that she's known about her condition for the past three years while continuing throw stick after stick of butter in her food? Absolutely.

It's vaccination time!

Good news. From the New York State website:

Governor David A. Paterson today announced that, effective immediately, health care providers may make the H1N1 flu vaccine available to all New Yorkers who want the vaccine, including those who are not in priority groups established by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

If you don't have health insurance, get thee to a clinic this weekend. This is the last weekend you'll be able to get an H1N1 shot for free. Clinics will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, 12/12, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, 12/13.

Hand-washing might not help

hand-washAs we gear up for a flu season, with H1N1 now in the mix, we're being advised to wash our hands on a regular basis. Bad news. Research from the Netherlands "suggests that the H1N1 flu travels mostly by air, not via hand-to-hand contact—and therefore won't be prevented through hand-washing."  This is not to say that hand washing isn't important.  It can prevent the transmission of many diseases -- swine flu is just probably not one of them.

So how is one to avoid getting H1N1? One possible solution is a surgical mask, but let's face it, only the truly crazy will wear one of those in public.

The best solution? Get the vaccine when it becomes available.

Personal Space Protector

img_3590"PERSONAL SPACE is an object classified as 'functional art', created by the Brazilian artist and inventor Vivian Puxian. It ensures your personal space is always kept safe, and protects you against infectious and contagious diseases, such as the swine flu." Get onto the subway during rush hour with one of these things, and swine flu will be the least of your worries.

Beach sand, fun but yucky.

42-15881046Next time your stomach doesn't agree with you after a day at the beach, don't blame that hot dog that you ate. It could have been the sand. A recent study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that people who played in beach sand were more likely to get some form intestinal disease. More specifically, poop is the culprit. Whether it's from a lazy owner's dog or from a wild animal, the waste gets washed to the beach by the rain.

The best ways to stay healthy are to use a hand sanitizer while at the beach and to shower thoroughly afterward.

Tracking the Swine Flu

Are we headed for another 1918 pandemic? Let's hope to God not. Perhaps it's too soon to be worried, but we definitely should be concerned.

To view a regularly updated (and somewhat disturbing) map of all the reported cases of H1N1 infections, check out Google Maps. New York City is shown above, but you can zoom out to see how the country and the rest of the world is being affected.

Update: According to Google, "Due to the increasing amount of data, we have moved to a more scalable mapping/data tracking system provided by Rhiza Labs at this URL: http://flutracker.rhizalabs.com."